Brown’s blunder down under

Editorials : Guest Opinion: By Andy Caldwell : capoliticalreview – excerpt
Please note the story originated on a site that is now a private site, so the linked version is coming from a secondary site. As net neutrality loses out we will see a lot more of these secondary stories. This one may be purchased for $2.50.

The biggest news story last week appeared in the classifieds. The legal notice declared a summons for all interested persons to appear in court in Sacramento as a defendant in a lawsuit. The lawsuit names the California Department of Water Resources vs. All Persons Interested in the matter of the Authorization of California Water Fix Revenue Bonds. That would be you.

Translation? Gov. Jerry Brown is trying to finance his Twin Tunnels project by way of a lawsuit. Each tunnel would be 150 feet below ground, 40 feet in diameter and 30 miles in length. The tunnel project would be as big a project as the English Channel tunnel and as big a boondoggle as Boston’s Big Dig…

Whereas most everyone agrees the Delta needs fixing, there is little agreement that the Twin Tunnels are the right fix. Hence, Mr. Brown is trying to move forward with this project by way of a lawsuit, which seeks to validate his authority to proceed without either voter, legislative or rate-payer approval…

I am very much afraid that Gov. Brown will actually make water less available due to the expense of this project, as it will make the state water unaffordable, leading to the cancellation of state water contracts. This will not just affect the parties that rely on state water directly. For instance, in Santa Maria, if state water becomes unaffordable, that means the city may end up using more groundwater than they do now. That will affect the water supply available to farmers.

Andy Caldwell is the executive director of COLAB and host of The Andy Caldwell Radio Show, weekdays from 3-5 p.m., on News-Press Radio AM 1290... (more)

This article is brought to you with the comments below based on our best knowledge of the situation. If anyone has better detailed information we will include that in a latter post.

All we know is that islands are being bought in the Delta by private corporations who may represent entities who want to claim riparian rights to the water in the Delta while farmers and others with water wells are being told their water rights may no longer hold for the water they are pumping on their land. If anyone has any other information on this subject, please let us know.

Meanwhile the city of San Francisco is starting to pump water to blend into the drinking water that they have been taking from Hetch Hetchy and residents are concerned about the quality and safety of this blended product.

People are switching to bottled water after recent attempts to make a big deal out of the great quality of the city’s Hetch Hetchy water supply, financial and legal constraints were enacted to convince people to drink tap water instead of bottled water. Now those constraints need to be removed since the water is no longer exclusively Hetch Hetchy, and some people with compromised health conditions will need to be careful with the blend.

This is especially important now that herbicides and other poisons are getting into our water system from such projects as the Beach Chalet. The voters approved the use of carcinogenic by-products that will leach into the soil near one of the aquifers on the west side.

 

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Judge blocks oil development in Central California over fracking

By David R. Baker : sfchronicle – excerpt

A federal judge on Tuesday blocked the U.S. Bureau of Land Management from opening more than 1 million acres in Central California to oil drilling because the agency did not properly explore the potential dangers of fracking.

U.S. District Court Judge Michael Fitzgerald sided with environmentalists who argued that the bureau should have addressed the possible impacts of hydraulic fracturing in an environmental impact statement issued as part of the formal process of opening public lands to drilling.

Instead, the 1,073-page impact statement only mentioned fracking three times and never discussed the controversial practice in depth, according to the judge…

Environmentalists who consider fracking a threat to California’s strained groundwater supplies hailed the ruling.

“The Obama administration must get the message and end this reckless rush to auction off our public land to oil companies,” said Brendan Cummings, conservation director for the Center for Biological Diversity, one of two environmental groups that sued the bureau. “As California struggles against drought and climate change, we’ve got to end fracking and leave this dirty oil in the ground.”… (more)

Not to mention the earthquake potential in an earthquake zone. They are worrying about it in Oklahoma now. We should consider it a potential threat in California.

 

New Economic Study Shows CEQA Protects Environment without Stunting Economic Growth

BAE Urban Economics report includes quantitative analysis of CEQA’s impacts on litigation, development costs and affordable housing

Berkeley, Calif. – Economic analysis firm BAE Urban Economics released a new report today that shows the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) supports economically and environmental sustainable development in California. The report was commissioned by the Rose Foundation in response to a number of flawed analyses released in recent years that inaccurately blame CEQA for economic challenges in the state.

“This report uses quantitative analysis to clarify that anti-CEQA rhetoric really has no basis in fact,” said Janet Smith-Heimer, President of BAE Urban Economics. “After extensive analysis, we found that CEQA does not have an actual dampening effect on California’s economy.”

The report includes a number of significant findings, including:

  • There is no quantitative evidence that CEQA has a retarding effect on the state’s economic prosperity.
  • Legislative changes to CEQA aimed at streamlining the CEQA process to encourage infill development are working. In San Francisco, only 14 environmental impact reports were prepared in the last three years. In that time, 100 projects proceeded with CEQA exemptions or expedited review.
  • Despite rapid population growth and development, the number of CEQA lawsuits statewide has remained constant over the past 14 years. Between 2013 and 2015, legal challenges were filed in 0.7 percent of projects subject to CEQA review.
  • Less than one percent of projects subject to CEQA review face litigation.
  • Direct costs for complete environmental reviews under CEQA typically range from 0.025% to 0.5% of total development costs.
  • California is the 11th most densely populated state in the nation. Its urban areas compare favorably to cities around the country with regard to the rate of infill vs. greenfield development.
  • The state’s largest cities show ongoing improvement in walkability. California is home to 12 of the nation’s 50 most walkable cities.
  • CEQA does not hamper the development of affordable housing in urban areas. Although the need to provide more affordable housing in California is undisputed, when compared to other states, California produces the second highest number of affordable housing units per 100,000 residents in the nation.

CEQA was signed into law in 1970 by then-Governor Ronald Reagan. CEQA requires public agencies to identify environmental impacts associated with development and to reduce or eliminate such impacts whenever feasible. The law provides provisions to ensure transparency and invites community involvement in development decisions.

“CEQA is often the only legal protection afforded to communities of color and low-income communities disproportionately burdened by environmental harms,” noted Gladys Limón, Staff Attorney with Communities for a Better Environment. “It identifies environmental health and safety impacts that would otherwise be passed off to residents and taxpayers generally. CEQA ensures smart development that respects the right of a decent home and suitable living environment for every Californian.”

The report’s analysis includes:

  • A literature review of recent studies on CEQA’s impacts.
  • A detailed review of legislation, legal findings and regulatory changes intended to streamline the CEQA process, and the degree to which those efforts have been successful.
  • Five case studies that illustrate how the CEQA process works (a transit center in Anaheim, an affordable senior housing project in Richmond, a Specific Plan for the Millbrae BART station, a solar installation in the Mojave Desert, and the contested SCIG railyard development at the Port of Los Angeles).
  • An analysis of the direct costs for the environmental review portion of a project, placed into context of other planning and constructions costs.
  • A review of California’s ranking compared to other states with regard to infill development, population density, walkability (a key metric of sustainable development) and economic prosperity.

“Public enforcement of CEQA plays a crucial function in protecting public health and the environment in California’s most vulnerable communities,” said Sean Hecht, Co-Executive Director, Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, UCLA School of Law. “At the same time, this report shows that litigation under CEQA affects only a small fraction of projects in the state.”…

Read the full 102 page report (more)

Tech heavyweights Benioff, Mayer and Stoppelman enter state’s housing battle

By : bizjournals – excerpt

Tech titans are gathering to support Gov. Jerry Brown’s “as of right” proposal to reduce approvals needed for new projects that include affordable housing, even as some local elected officials have opposed the bill.

Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff, Yahoo Inc. CEO Marissa Mayer and former Disney CEO Michael Eisner are among dozens of tech and business leaders who support the bill, in a letter from the Bay Area Council, the largest local business group.

Other supporters include SV Angel venture capitalist Ron Conway, Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman and Max Levchin, founder of Affirm and Paypal. (Disclosure: Mary Huss, publisher of the San Francisco Business Times, is a member of the Bay Area Council’s Board of Trustees and is also listed as a supporter.)

The bill would remove discretionary reviews from projects with 20 percent affordable housing or 10 percent near transit, which could cut down the often multi-year approvals process for new development.

“The companies represented by these CEOs employ hundreds of thousands of workers statewide who are suffering because of the state’s epic housing shortage,” said Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council, in a statement.

“The lack of supply and resulting skyrocketing rents and home prices are taking a particularly steep toll on those at the lower rungs of the economic ladder who cannot compete for housing in this market and are being evicted, dislocated and marginalized,” said Wunderman.

Another supporter, Sam Altman, president of the prominent startup incubator Y Combinator, which provided early funding to Airbnb, Dropbox and Reddit, also wrote a blog post in support of the legislation.

“I believe that lowering the cost of housing is one of the most important things we can do to help people increase their quality of life and to reduce wealth inequality,” he wrote. “A huge part of the problem has been that building in the Bay Area is approved by discretion; even when developments comply with local zoning, they can still be vetoed or stalled by local planning commissions, lawsuits, or ballot measures.”… (more)

Bay Area needs powerful regional government, study says

By Andrew McGall : contracostatimes – excerpt

The Bay Area generates one of the brightest sparks in the nation’s recovering economy, but feeding its vitality means residents will have to give up some local control, dig deeper into their wallets, and make room for tens of thousands of new neighbors, according to study released Friday.

Keeping on prosperity’s path requires a regional government with power to overcome local obstacles, money from new taxes and tolls, and opening the doors to housing closed by local growth controls and state environmental red tape, according to “A Roadmap for Economic Resilience,” an in-depth study done by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute.

Without action, the Bay Area’s highways choked with commuters, its fragmented transit systems, and anti-growth attitudes will choke the boom times, the report says.

The Bay Area may have 101 cities, “but it is one economy with more than 7 million people,” says Bay Area Council President Jim Wunderman… (more)

Governor rejects redevelopment replacement, approves related measure

By Allen Young : bizjournal – excerpt

Gov. Jerry Brown nixed a proposal on Monday that would have breathed new life into the abolished redevelopment agencies by creating authorities capable of financing community-supported infrastructure projects.

But the governor also signed legislation that reforms an economic development tool known as infrastructure financing districts, which are similar to the former redevelopment agencies in that they use property-tax growth to fund infrastructure.

The difference, however, is that infrastructure financing requires a public vote, which local governments say have historically undermined its viability. The new law lowers the needed voter approval to 55 percent from the current two-thirds threshold.

In a veto message for Assembly Bill 2280, which would have established “community revitalization and investment authorities,” Brown said the proposal for was well intended but “unnecessarily vests this new program in redevelopment law.” The governor pledged to find a better solution with author Assemblyman Luis Alejo, a Salinas Democrat.
Infrastructure financing districts rely on tax-increment financing, a system that directs increases in property-tax revenue to finance building projects. The districts only can receive about half of the funds that were accessible to redevelopment agencies because they cannot siphon away revenues that would otherwise go to schools…

Sen. Jim Beall, a San Jose Democrat who authored Senate Bill 628, said infrastructure financing is an improvement over the redevelopment program because the voter requirement and other transparency provisions protects against abuse of tax dollars.
“I think a public vetting washes out all the flaky projects,” he said.

On Monday, the governor also signed Senate Bill 614, a related measure that allows for tax-increment financing to be used to repair infrastructure in some low-income areas when the effort is done in conjunction with an annexation plan… (more)

Reform CEQA to help live with drought

The first CEQA reform bill of the year, SB122, was introduced by state Sen. Hannah Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, and co-authored by state Sens. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, and Richard Roth, D-Riverside. The bill only proposes a change to CEQA’s litigation procedures but, by including substantive yet commonsense changes in requirements and review, SB122 could be made into a real reform bill.

I urge you to contact your elected representatives in the Legislature to share your concerns about the need to build water use considerations into our key environmental law. While CEQA reform will be a significant step forward, building in drought resilience will not solve the state’s water woes. It will, however, go a long way toward ensuring the resources we have are used effectively.

Kristina D. Lawson is a partner at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP, where she specializes in land use and environmental law and policy. She is also the former mayor of Walnut Creek. To comment, submit your letter to the editor at www.sfgate.com/submissions/#1(more)

Assembly Bill 52 to expand CEQA’s scope and impose new consultation requirements

by Hunton & Williams LLP : lexology – excerpt

On September 25, 2014, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 52, which expands the reach of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by requiring the lead agency on a proposed project to consult with any California Native American tribes affiliated with the geographic area. Further, the legislation creates a broad new category of environmental resources, “tribal cultural resources,” which must be considered under CEQA… (more)

High-Speed Rail Takes Two More Swipes at CEQA

By Kathy Hamilton : pulbicceo – excerpt

This is the second in a series of articles updating the status of the California high-speed rail project in the wake of the California Supreme Court green-lighting bond funding. The first article covered two earlier attempts by the California High-Speed Rail Authority to get around the California Environmental Quality Act. This article covers two more attempts…

In his 2013 State of the State address, Gov. Jerry Brown quoted “The Little Engine That Could”: “I think I can. I think I can.”

One thing the California High-Speed Rail Authority, which runs the project, thinks it can do is get around the California Environmental Quality Act. As noted in the first article in this series, it started with two attempts:

  • Attempt 1: During the California Legislature’s closing days in August 2012, the CHSRA tried to pass more lenient measures to comply with CEQA. The Legislature didn’t cooperate.
  • Attempt 2: In June 2013, the CHSRA filed a request with the 3rd District Court of Appeal in the city of Atherton’s suit against the project. The CHSRA wanted the court to recognize the federal pre-emption of jurisdiction, getting around state laws, such as CEQA. The court refused.

Attempt 3: De-publication…
Attempt 4: the Surface Transportation Board…

Originally posted at CalWatchdog... (more)

 

The Supreme Court Eyes CEQA

 

The best prospect for reform of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is no longer with the Legislature or the Governor, but at the California Supreme Court.

Over the past several years, hopes were high that the political branches would dig in to drain the CEQA litigation swamp. Governor Brown famously called CEQA reform the “Lord’s work.” Outgoing Senate leader Darrell Steinberg made reform of this law an “agenda priority” in 2013.

But for all the sound and fury – not incidentally as California struggled to recover from a deep recession – the rhetoric signified nothing. The legislative reform efforts fizzled and even Governor Brown has expressed a diminished enthusiasm for reform. Indeed, one of the most significant CEQA bills over the past four years expanded its scope to include Native American religio-cultural beliefs.

Enter the high court… (more)

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